Denise Bailey finds her inner cowgirl in Texas
Ithink from now on we’ll call you Bang-Bang Bailey,” says the friendly receptionist at the Mayan Dude Ranch. I’ve been initiated into the Mayan Gang of modernday cowboys and cowgirls, and as the Texas city limits fade with the last drops of burning red sun, I’m getting to grips with life in the world’s cowboy capital.
The likes of John Wayne and JR Ewing may have put this American Stetson-studded state on the map, but increased accessibility has reinvigorated global interest in Texas. For now, I’ve left the city behind me, driving two hours out of town to Bandera, a cosmopolitan place characterised by vast fields, big trucks and motorbikes.
My introduction to cowboy culture is at the OST Restaurant in Main Street. A whole room is dedicated to John Wayne, and staff are happy to share friendly banter about The Duke as I fill up on enchiladas.
I don’t meet a modern-day cowboy until we arrive at the ranch, where tourists can saddle up with stirrups and spurs and live ranch life for a few days. My education begins with a two-hour ride through the dusty parched grounds. Returning to the corral after bidding my horse, a very patient Mr Pepsi, farewell, we enjoy a hot, competitive and fun-filled archery lesson from the aptly named ex-pro David Archer.
I rarely manage to hit my target but David assures me there’s still time yet to hone my cowgirl skills.
Later we toast our achievements – and, in my case, many misses over a simple, yet delicious dinner of steak, potatoes and salad while being serenaded by a country singer. The entertainment continues when we leap into some line-dancing and, to my utter delight and wonder, dance with a real-life cowboy!
But if you think Texas is all about bows, arrows and lassos, you’re mighty wrong!
Saying goodbye to Mayan in the morning, we head to San Antonio. The second most populated city in Texas, named after Saint Anthony of Padua, it’s a colourful, laid-back place, with strong Spanish influences at every street corner. Imposing boulevards are